Vizag Diaries – Stranger in the Shadows

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September 7th, 2005

Seven Hills Hospital, Waltair Road

Archana looked around frantically. The hospital was a total chaos. Few outpatients here and there, waiting for their turn. She glanced towards the sign board that read ‘Emergency’. Archana panicked. If he was nowhere to be seen in the lobby, it could mean only one thing.

She started walking swiftly towards the reception. The lady sitting there looked up at her while still talking to someone else on the phone. Archana made an attempt to ask a question when the woman raised her hand, requesting her another moment.

“ he has lost a lot of blood. Okay…okay…”

Archana starred at her, ridden with anxiety. The woman said ‘He’. Could that be him? She waited impatiently as the woman wrote down on her notepad. A split second also looked like a decade.

“Yes” she said

“I’m looking for an admission. Accident case” Archana stammered

“Name?” asked the woman, calmly. For her, every day was the same at the hospital.

“Su.Suresh” Archana replied

The woman typed the name on her computer.

“There was one admission in the early hours. Bike accident near.. Lawsons Bay?” she asked.

“Yes..Yes” Archana almost screamed enough to panic the people who were next to her.

“Yes, Suresh Kumar C, he is in the surgery” the woman said

Archana was dazed. She felt as if the whole world came to a standstill in a spur of the moment.

“What surgery?“she asked

“Head trauma. The patient had an intra cranial bleeding upon impact, I think. First case that was brought in”

“I’m his wife” Archana started crying, ignoring the onlookers “Please tell me where to go and whom to talk to”

The woman looked on with the same annoying calm. She waited for Archana to catch up with her breath.  “Do you need water?” she asked

“No” Archana said

“Okay, go to the first floor. The surgery is in progress. You will have to wait” the woman managed to complete the sentence by the time Archana was about to take the stairs.

There was something really inauspicious about that day, Archana thought as she raced up the steps. Perhaps it was a bad day according to the Thithi. Maybe, the hour was a Rahu Kalam when Suresh was brought in. Archana had her usual quirks with astrology that constantly bugged him.

She tried to control the rising tension. There was not much of a choice at that time. The surgeons were doing their job. There was nobody near the OT other than a lady who was sitting and waiting. Archana went and sat next to her. She buried her face in her palms and tried not to weep.

The lady next to her stared with concern. There was nothing much to do for two complete strangers near the operating theatre other than to wait. The lady waited for Archana to settle.

Archana looked at the wall clock. It was 11 AM. Almost five hours since admission. Nobody could contact her immediately, as Suresh had saved her number with a nickname that was private between them. The cops had to call his parents in Hyderabad, who then called her. Archana started hating herself for so many reasons. That fight was so unwarranted. Her head started reeling as she recalled the nasty argument from the previous night. Suresh had totally lost it when she started packing her bag. She did not see that coming. Neither did him. Archana started cursing herself for the kind of person she had become.

“Do you need some water, dear?” the lady asked as Archana stared at the opposite wall. She turned to look at her. The lady looked like she was in her mid-30s. The front of her hairs were greying already, perhaps from some kind of emotional stress.

“No thank you” Archana replied, looking back at the wall

“It’s so strange right? Waiting for someone here” the lady said. Archana felt her stomach tighten at that. She nodded in agreement as tears rolled down from her cheeks, once more.

“I’m sorry I’m not helping” the lady said, shaking her head.

“It’s okay”

“Really, you are already looking so worked up and I passed that stupid comment. I’m sorry”

Archana nodded. The two women continued to stare around them, trying to manage the killing silence.

“I wish I never fought with him” Archana said, not caring for basic introductions.

The lady listened to her. “Is that your husband inside? I saw them, take him in”

Archana stared at her “How was he when he went in? I got the word very late”

The lady replied “He was bleeding a little, not much. But don’t worry, he will be fine. I think the surgeons here are the best we have got”

“Why are you here? I mean. Who are you here for” Archana asked

The lady smiled “For my kid”. Archana did not know how to react.

“He is seven. Was recently diagnosed with a fore brain tumour. We were managing him with pain meds so far. Things have now gone out of control. He started to seize last night. I had to come and admit.”

“And your husband..?” Archana asked

“He is no more” said the lady. There was an eerie silence. The lady went on to fill up the agony that began to invade the two women.

“It’s okay. I have moved on with great difficulty with that loss. But this is a more severe test. I have decided to not to give up so fast”

“I’m sorry about your son. I will pray for him to get better” Archana replied.

The lady nodded with gratitude. Archana found some kind of solace in that woman. She was definitely older and much more experienced in life. But there was some kind of strange synergy. A synergy of pain that was waging at different levels.

“You shouldn’t’ blame yourself” said the lady. Archana looked at her with expectation to hear more of what was coming.

“You had a fight with him, right?” she asked.

“How did you know?”

“I was married too, remember? Happens all the time. Arguments, fights, misunderstandings. They reach to a point of packing bags and leaving. Relationships also survive on the basis of how easily you can head back with the same packed bag and hug your husband one more time”

Archana started crying “I feel so miserable. He didn’t want me to leave, but I acted like an arrogant swine. That kind of ticked him off. He took his bike and started racing away into the dark. Thought I would see him in one piece after he calmed down. It’s all my doing. I brought this on to myself” Archana became inconsolable.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself, dear” the lady said, trying to comfort Archana “We are all human. We tend to screw up. Stuff happens even before we know what’s coming next. But you need to stay strong as he is battling in there. You need to correct everything while there is a chance.”

Archana nodded in agreement.

“Can we pray together?” she asked

“Yes, we can” smiled the lady. The women prayed silently for over three minutes when the doors opened. The first one to come out was the surgeon who operated on Suresh. Archana ran to him.

“How’s he?” she asked

“He’s out of danger but unconscious” the surgeon replied as she heaved with relief. “We need to keep him under observation for the next 24 hours and see how he responds” Archana thanked the doctor gratefully. The surgeon smiled and left.

Archana turned to look at the lady. “He’s safe. I think he will make it” she said.

The lady smiled. “See, I told you!”

Archana then realised that her son was still inside. She felt the worry coming in again.

“Let us wait for your son now” she said, sitting next to the lady and holding her hand.

The door opened one more time. Before Archana could go along and inquire, the lady stopped her.

“Our journeys conclude here, dear”

Archana did not understand. The lady continued

“You have just rediscovered happiness. Mine is an ongoing turmoil. One of us deserves to walk out of here without a dark cloud hanging on our heads. And I believe that should be you”

Archana understood her sentiment. “I’m around if you need me” she said, trying to reach out and give her phone number. The lady stopped her “I have to go now, be happy”

Archana looked on as the lady went ahead to talk to the surgeon. She started walking away towards the ICU, looking up and thanking God for two things – valuable lesson learned in life and a stranger who came by to rescue her in the shadows.



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